Circling under our known world – perhaps born with it – is the gargantuan crow-worm our ancestors called Garathana. She drags her endless weight across unfathomable depths. Her trawl is the world’s silence.
Her size varies by account. Some say her worm body is continent-sized. Others claim they’ve seen her swallow ships, her crow beak emerging from the crest of a tidal wave. Some even claim her intestines are hell, lost souls wandering the blacked-out halls of her esophagus for eternity. This is mostly immaterial: she exists at the limit of our sapient memory – unknowable, omnipresent.
Out walking along the shore one burnt night, I watched a new horizon emerge from the first. Curious, I set out towards the second horizontal undulating glacially. The sea was dark. The night was pitch. My small boat pressed through waves of blackness. Whether an hour or a week passed, I realized all at once that my boat no longer moved forward – instead it was propelled sideways by a leaden landmass underneath.
I timidly stepped off my tiny vessel and into a deep sludge that buried me to the hip. Wading through the muck, I began to drain out of myself. My memories were the first to go, followed immediately by any sense of self. My body did a slow dissolve after, blanching the air around it with the trace of my existence. I was reduced to some soulless prokaryote, sucking nutrients from the sea.
Floating single-celled in the infinite waters for what seemed eternity, I eventually began evolving back into myself. As a fish there was just moment-to-moment anxiety, made sharper as I went mammalian. Finally, as a primate flailing in brine, my protohuman brain started gradually comprehending the abject terror. And as I balded into humanity, the scale of my encounter dawned on me.
There were years of wandering afterwards. Of searching for an answer to the moving island that had undone me and left me to reassemble. The information I found came from dark corners and the price I paid was often unspeakable, but I finally understand her. She is the bile coursing through our blood, the cosmic excrement lining our galaxy. She grows to swallow our world. And once eaten, she hopes to become it.
On a moonless, starless night, don’t chase the horizon. Garathana has extinguished the moon and muted the stars. She beckons. Make her wait for you.
Illustration by Matt Reid